A Bullshitter's Guide to Filter House
We survey the best thing to come out of France since Claude Makélélé.
House and disco is a combo as classic as fish and chips and gin and tonic. As anyone who, like me, has skimmed through Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton's Last Night a DJ Saved My Life knows, the latter begat the former. Late disco mutated into early boogie which eventually wormed into being proto house and then Trax came along and the whole world knew how to jack. Like childhood sweethearts they never truly forget one another.
Filter house, also known as French Touch — because most of the people making it wore berets and cycled around swathed in onions, stinking of Galouise and merlot — is basically the easiest music in the world. Take a sample from a disco record, whack a big fat kick under it, prat about with the EQs et voila: filter house. Simplicity, though, is never a bad thing, and in this world of uncertainty and panic, most of us yearn for it. We want easy television and fast food, films we can sum up in a few .GIFs and novels we don't really have to read. Keep it simple and you'll be far from stupid.
The filter house sound emerged, sweaty and spangly in the mid-to-late 1990s, all glitz and glamour, pomp and circumstance. Labels like Thomas Bangalter's Roule and Étienne de Crécy Super Discount were pivotal to the creation and continuation of the sound. Stardust's seminal "Music Sounds Better with You" was the breakthrough in the scene needed and filter house, in it's many variations, became a byword for happy, sunshine-filled, long, lazy days, and balmy evenings spent flitting between cocktails and coke. It's music that's undemanding and pleasure-focused, music that always wants the listener to come first. And we, here at THUMP, always want you, our dear reader, to come first. So take this guide out with you, stick it in your back pocket, and you might end up filtering the night away.
Stardust – "Music Sounds Better with You"
This is the absolute papa of French Touch. One of the most genuinely transcendental records ever committed to wax, this Braxe and Banagalter classic is like "Billie Jean" or "So Weit Wie Noch Nie" or "Be My Baby" or "Dick By the Pound" — put it on anywhere, anytime, any place and it bangs. From pool parties to baby showers, weddings to tax disc renewal celebrations, Ibiza to Ipswich. The laziness of the Chaka Khan lift that gives the song — minus Benjamin Diamond's hilariously yearning vocal — its entire structure is stunningly cheeky, a flippant middle finger raised to anyone who rates originality over impact.
Modjo – "Lady"
In many ways the Primark version of Stardust's sunkissed slice of heavily filtered perfection, the innate shitness of "Lady" is where it's brilliance stems from.
Pete Heller – "Big Love"
Terry Farley's dear old mate Pete Heller proved with "Big Fun" that it wasn't just the French who could have fun with an extremely liberal approach to playing with EQ pots. "Big Fun" sounds like the distillation of every perfect summer memory you've ever had: football in parks, picnics on beaches, arguments in cars. Nabbing a line from third tier disco also-rans Stargard's unmemorable "Wear it Out" and, well, wearing it out for ten minutes, "Big Love" is Britain's entry in the canon.
Junior Jack – "My Feeling"
WHEN I THINK ABOUT YOU/MY FEELINGS CAN'T EXPLAIN. Sampling the best song ever is a pretty good idea so it's no surprise that "My Feeling" is a stone cold banger. It's obvious in the way chips and mayonnaise is and, to be honest, I'd rather gorge myself on McCains and Holman's than delicately finger a bit of foie gras any day.
Together – "So Much Love to Give"
A complete fucking boring drill of a record, this Bangalter and DJ Flacon banger beyond bangers is a hallucinatory jam that pins the listener down and delivers an absurdly filtered trepanning. Never before, or since, has one record done so much with so little. The dynamic duo eek 10 minutes of spangly, effervescent, incandescent magic out of one phrase and two chords. It's primally hypnotic, terrifyingly effective, a sweaty, never ending pumper of a record. It just bangs and bangs and bangs and bangs. Pure unyielding euphoria. See also: "Together" by Together, which is the most intense record ever.
Alcazar - "Crying at the Discoteque"
You know that really terrible John Waters quote that terrible people love to post on social networking sites about not fucking people who don't have books? Swap "books" for "Alcazar" records and it's a lot less heinous and pious and makes a hell of a lot more sense. The best band ever.
Cerrone – "Hysteria"
This late-period screamer from the king of overlong disco records is the best thing to come out of France since...Alizee? Claude Makélélé? Jean Reno? I dunno, I've only been to France twice and I've spent most of my time there picking up foreign versions of products I know from back home in hypermarche's and getting excited that they have different packaging ("Get this, love, the Kronenbourg cans are red here! Red!") so maybe I'm not an expert but this is definitely France's best export since the other things I've already mentioned. It's camp, schlocky silly fun. This is filter-house, it's meant to be stupid, yeah?
Nerio's Dubwork ft. Daryl Pandy - "Feel It"
Firstly, let's give it the fuck up for the one and only Daryl fucking Pandy. Daryl Pandy! The voice of house music. Without big Daryl, there'd be no Robert Owens, no Kenny Bobien, no one. He's the reason we all love wailing male diva vocals over chunky house records. "Love Can't Turn Around" is one of those tunes that needs to be beamed into space on whatever mission we're on that tries to deliver culture to aliens. Send them "Love Can't Turn Around", a Clarkson book, and a photo of people eating chips in their car and blammo, you've got humanity. Anyway, nearly 15 years ago now (???) Daryl popped up on this late-period filter house classic and it, more than any other record on this list, is deserving of a revival. Riding a Chic sample like it isn't anything, "Feel It" just fucking rolls on. It sounds like the best night of your life. This is party music at it's very best. P-A-R-T-Y. PAR-TAY!
Le Knight Club - "Boogie Shell"
Le Knight Club was Guy Man from Daft Punk's sideproject and they released some very, very good filter house records and people don't really talk about them very much and that's a shame because they released some very good filter house records and deserve more of a place in the history of dance music than just being known as "those records that Guy Man from Daft Punk put out between albums".
DJ Sneak - "You Can't Hide From Your Bud"
Here's an American take on the phenomena. House Gangster/bigmout DJ Sneak's tough take on the classic filter sound is the best thing he ever did and a throwback to those pre-9/11 days of harmony between the nations. Music for a generation who didn't like the whole "Freedom Fries" thing.
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